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AGENDA May 1 TV One 0830

AGENDA May 1 TV One 0830

This transcript is copyright to Front Page Ltd but may be used provided acknowledgement is made to both TV One and “Agenda”. This is a quick transcript and may contain errors.



SIMON Richard Prebble's surprise resignation this week means there is now a contest on to lead Act. A cynic might say why would anyone bother after all the party's in danger of dropping off the bottom of most polls. Yesterday's UMR Insight poll had the party at 2.4% and the weekend's One New Colmar Brunton poll had them at 2%. So far three candidates have declared themselves – Rodney Hide, Stephen Franks and Ken Shirley. We had also invited Muriel Newman to appear on this programme but she told us she wants to remain neutral in the meantime. Nominations close next Wednesday so she has till then to make her mind up.

Gentlemen, we'll begin by giving you each one minute to explain to viewers and potential Act voters why you should be elected as leader of the Act Party. We drew seating and speaking order before the programme so first up Rodney Hide.

R HIDE Thank you Simon, this is a very important vote for Act and for the country to choose the next leader of Act. The first thing is leadership. I believe I have the ability to articulate a vision for New Zealand which is for a free and prosperous society and what we need to do to get there. Number two I believe we need to broaden Act's appeal, particularly to working people who are paying the taxes and producing the wealth for New Zealand and number three I believe I have the ability to work with Don Brash and the National Party to provide a good coalition partner with Act with the team to provide a good government to replace Helen Clark's government.

SIMON Thank you, next up Stephen Franks.

S FRANKS As Rodney said it is important for everyone but because we have performed a role that no other party has performed in parliament we've been asking the hard questions, we've been putting the issues that other people didn’t want to touch and in effect we've prepared the ground for some of the changes that people are now asking for as is shown in polling. Richard resigned because he saw us as needing a fresh face, I think that the party needs a chance to decide whether Rodney or myself or Ken which one of us would be genuinely fresh, which one of us would provide the room for the talent that is across the party's bench to emerge. It hasn’t been that Rodney or Richard have suppressed it, it's simply that there is only so much space and the drama that is around politicians' experience, politicians like that, can tend to overshadow the contribution that people like Muriel for example makes, or that Deborah Coddington makes or that Ken or any of us has and I think that each in our field in parliament we've clearly been the ones who think, who bring forth the fresh solutions who introduce the ideas that ought to be what is debated in parliament.

SIMON Thank you. Ken Shirley why should you be elected leader.

K SHIRLEY I believe I can bring strong effective leadership. I believe Act needs to present a different style and tone while retaining the core policies and messages that were always held and espoused in parliament. Act does have the quality team, it's certainly a privilege to lead the Act team in parliament, I'd like to continue the harmony and cooperation that we have within the Act caucus and to let all of the MPs flourish because the talent across the Act team is tremendous, we are the most effective group in parliament, commentators constantly say that, but I also think it's important to get out and build the party, expand the membership and I think us presenting in a different style and tone is the best way to broaden our appeal right across New Zealand. Act actually is the party that stands for all thinking people, it's not the rich man's club as some have painted us, all New Zealanders would benefit from the implementation of Act's policies.

SIMON Thank you both, that’s one minute statements from each of the Act candidates. I'm gonna throw a question open to the floor and I'll begin with you Mr Franks, your polling's not pretty, how do you plan to revitalise Act, more specifically we've had the general statements what do you have in mind to revitalise Act?

S FRANKS Our polling is clearly partly a reflection of the appeal of Don Brash and I have to say I think it is the appeal of Don Brash, no the National Party he is surrounded by people who were there when they looked much more insecure than we did, but the message that he's giving is a simple one at this stage, it is we are ready to look at complete changes. We have been doing that for years, we put a bill in in 1997 to put a time limit on Treaty claims, we voted against Treaty principles, if I use in his own sphere. We've got a way of getting the Treaty – we've got two bills waiting in the ballot now to get the Treaty socalled principles out of all the legislation where they're causing trouble, in other words we've done the detail and I think the time will come when people will want to say more than just oh there's a chance that this is ending, they’ll want to know how it's done and I believe that we can show that the hard thinking is already there, we've been through the arguments, it will be implemented, not like last time when Jim Bolger said the same things and was rolled by the detail.

SIMON It's a probably widespread and understandable complaint that Don Brash has stolen the ground from under you in many respects. What will you do, what will you specifically do to differentiate Act from National Mr Hide?

R HIDE Oh the first thing is we need to recognise that Don Brash is leading the National Party which is a broad church and if we're going to have a good government then he needs a good coalition partner and that partner has to be Act, that’s the first thing to establish and we have to earn the vote or voters as a consequence of that. The second thing as you say well what is Act's role in the next government and it is to be the role of boldness and the party of ideas. We're a liberal party, we believe in freedom we believe in prosperity. For example Don Brash has come out and said he's gonna keep the top rate of tax at 39 cents, we thought it was wrong when Labour put it up to 39 cents, we think it's still wrong, if voters want to get that top rate of tax down from 39, immediately they're gonna have to vote Act at the next election. I believe we can do that and I believe we can provide a good government for a great country.

SIMON Briefly, can you live up to your political ambition to deliver a flat tax of 20% or less?

R HIDE Of course.

SIMON You can influence the National Party to achieve that?

R HIDE Yes, if we get the vote.


R HIDE Well what you need in New Zealand in order to influence the debate in government and in parliament is to win votes, so our challenge is to get over the 5% threshold at the next election, I believe we will do that, I believe that the National Party needs a good coalition partner and Act is it, we've got the team, we've got the ideas, we've got the ability and we've got the working relationship with National.

SIMON Given that polling, heck of a political challenge and not necessarily the support on that. Mr Shirley what are the crucial policies for Act to survive in your opinion?

K SHIRLEY Oh the crucial policies are what we've been saying right from the outset when we first came to the parliament, we believe in the role of the individual over the dominance of the state, and the key way of implementing that is for the state to take less of people's money in the form of taxation and leave the choice with them so that they can make their choices in life. We still believe in safety nets for those with genuine need but we believe welfare in this country is way out of hand, too many people are trapped into dependency, there's nothing more damaging to a person than to make them and retain them as a dependent on the state, we'd like to give them a hand up rather than a hand out, that is core to Act.

SIMON You were previously a Labour MP but never publicly identified as a Rogernome, how do you reconcile your past with where you are today?

K SHIRLEY Oh it's interesting you should say that because the party the Labour Party of the late 80s tried to roll me because I was a Rogernome, it was quite clear in the final stages of that government that I supported the policies and the economic reforms that both Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble were champions of and indeed I was a Minister in the final stages of that government, so I have no difficulty whatsoever in really making the point the Act is a continuation of the reform process that was started in the late 80s, carried on for a brief period with Ruth Richardson but then Jim Bolger sacked her, and in many respects we've only had about five years of reform in this country and most informed economic commentators would agree that the problem with New Zealand is that we didn’t carry on, we dropped the ball.

SIMON We're going to take a short break now, when we return we'll have more from the Act candidates and then reaction to Tariana Turia's resignation yesterday.


SIMON We are live with the three Act candidates, the three candidates for the Act leadership here this morning with me, Rodney Hide, Stephen Franks and Ken Shirley. We're asking them why they should be elected leader of the Act Party following the resignation of Richard Prebble.

Mr Franks why did Richard Prebble advise you he was resigning before telling caucus, has he made you any promises?

S FRANKS No not at all, he's always been very fair and focused on doing things by the – he observes the rules, and I was away, he didn’t want me to read about it or hear about it on a website, he didn’t know how easy it would be to get hold of me and when he got hold of me it was the night before.

SIMON The night before, so that’s part of the rules tell somebody who's not there physically in caucus the day before he'd tell everybody else?

K SHIRLEY Oh but he trusted him like, he gave Stephen an opportunity….

S FRANKS He just said will you keep this entirely to yourself? I said of course and then he told me what he was planning to do.

SIMON Why would he not have told you immediately after telling caucus?

S FRANKS Because it was no guarantee that he could get hold of me, he was able to ring me at the conference I was at in the evening, my evening and tell me what was happening in a way that could quite possibly not have happened the next day.

SIMON Mr Hide is that fair play?

R HIDE Oh absolutely, and I mean I would expect Richard to do that, and it's such a character of Richard and indeed the character of Stephen Franks you'd expect that. There's nothing untoward about that, in fact Richard Prebble I think has done the party and the country huge service by offering this primary, it's a big decision and he's set a very high standard for his MPs and his party in doing this. I know of no other leader of any political party that would trust the party or trust their MPs to go through such a process as this, I think it's an excellent idea.

SIMON Funny you say that because Audrey Young the political editor of the Herald this week said there are no louder moments in politics than an enemy paying tribute to another enemy with reference to your praise of Richard Prebble.

R HIDE Well I have not been Richard Prebble's enemy at all.

SIMON There is the perception in the media however that Richard Prebble is favouring other candidates, what's your reaction to that?

R HIDE Oh I believe that’s absolutely incorrect, I think everyone here will agree that Richard's a very fair man and he's established a very fair process.

SIMON He is possibly the only other apart from yourself Mr Hide, truly viable electorate candidates, how vital is he for the future of Act, Mr Shirley?

K SHIRLEY Oh Richard Prebble has tremendous experience, we would certainly like him to stay on as part of our team right through to the next election, whether he decides to stay on beyond that and become an influential cabinet minister in the next centre right government will be a decision that he has got to take and he's given some indication of that, but his contribution would be of tremendous value to that government, but Act has made the decision it wants a new face, that it wants a new style in tone and presentation and Richard – very few leaders actually lead of their own accord, very few in history, and that’s a real measure I think of Richard's integrity and judgement, he made that decision and he did it totally correctly, he came to his caucus and he set up a very fair process for selection of his subsequent leader.

SIMON Funny you say that, I mean the same day he resigned you told the media explicitly that leadership was not on the agenda, Mr Franks had been advised, are you out of the loop?

K SHIRLEY Well no that’s a measure of how fair Richard is. I had a meeting with him at 8.30 cos I only learnt when I arrived at parliament that day that he'd called a press conference for 12.30 and to his credit he did not tell me the reason for that. He did not tell anyone I believe other than the President the night before, and Stephen Franks who for sensible reasons he had to, in that situation I'd have done exactly the same and he trusted Stephen as we all do and that’s a totally correct way of doing it.

S FRANKS I should say that he will do an endorsement by the end of this process, I mean he genuinely wants the party to be engaged, he wants us to do the work of outlining how we're going to overcome this polling hurdle. I mean we are all there because we're passionate about where New Zealand's going, I don’t think any of us came to this purely because politics is a good game, and I think Richard is in the best position to give a view on the kind of person he thinks should lead, I hope that there will be endorsements from a number of people in the position to observe us at close hand, but he didn’t want to prejudge it and I think the test that essentially he set in this process he wants it to have a fair shot at drawing out what we can present before there's any statement of view of the departing leader.

SIMON Let's look at the electability of you all, we have a 2% polling at best possibly 2.4%, we're well short of the 5% threshold, you need an electorate. I believe Mr Shirley polled around 13% of Tamaki last time, Mr Hide polled around 21-21% of Epsom, Mr Franks you only polled 8% in Wellington Central, are you electable?

S FRANKS Well I would hope I did, I went around the streets of Wellington urging people to vote for Hekia Parata and to give us the party vote, that is the strategy and the only way in fact that people can be persuaded to understand the way MMP works, and every vote that was given for me if it was a split vote was a wasted vote. If we go for the seat we certainly will not be giving that message next time. As to whether I'm electable I actually think it's still to be decided whether we should be going for any seat, if the only way we can hang on in parliament is by getting a lifebelt seat then we don’t have a mandate. If we can't persuade 5% of the people that the policies we're offering and the integrity we offer and this plain speaking we offer is worth being in parliament, then getting there will be like Jim Anderton, we'll just be an appendage within a big party, that isn't worth doing.

SIMON Lifebelt seat Mr Hide, I mean given that you are the highest polling within the electorate of the Act candidates is the only way for Richard Worth or for National to pull out of the Epsom seat, effectively trying to hand it to you, is that the only way forward for Act?

R HIDE No not at all, I hope Richard Worth stands, I think the people of Epsom should choose who their MP is and Act certainly has to get above 5%. I want all our MPs back because we are heading into government and we do need the experience and talent of our entire caucus. We'll get 7% plus, plus we'll win Epsom.

SIMON Okay we're running out of time, we haven't got that much longer with you both, quick question for each of you. If the other two gentlemen here end up being the final candidate Mr Shirley which of them would you support?

K SHIRLEY Oh look I'm not going to speculate on that at this stage that would be totally inappropriate, I know my caucus colleagues very well, we're in a contest, we believe in competition, a contest is very good for the party and we believe for politics generally.

SIMON I think that’s a long version of no comment. Mr Franks if you lose the leadership vote can you guarantee that you will still stand for Act at the next election that you won't jump ship?

S FRANKS No I can't guarantee that, because a guarantee like that doesn’t take contingencies into account. I will stand for election.

SIMON What sort of contingencies?

S FRANKS Well it depends whether in fact the party wants me.

SIMON So if the party doesn’t want you as leader and the polling stays low, are you saying you are prepared to jump ship?

S FRANKS I came to politics from the career that I really enjoyed and I think I did perform well, I won't stay in politics unless I can achieve, so I'll make my decision as I think every MP will on where they put their lives, six months or three months out from the election.

SIMON Would you rule out now, effectively would you rule out joining National? Would you rule that out yes or no?

S FRANKS It would be highly unlikely that I would do that unless the party as a whole had decided there was no other way of achieving where we wanted to go.

SIMON So you can't rule it out absolutely?


SIMON Mr Hide you’re widely considered to the perk buster, how are you gonna convince voters that there's more to you than that?

R HIDE Oh it's true I've been called the perk buster, I've also been the parliamentarian that turned up in opposition as a back bench in 1996, there were problems with how we financed MPs, there were problems with the IRD, I took those concerns to the government departments to the ministers, none would do anything, and then I raised them in parliament, I raised them in the media and I think we have a better IRD as a consequence, I think we sorted out problems in Te Mango Paho, I think we sorted out problems in every consultation, I think that’s an important role for a parliamentarian and when I turned up to parliament in 1996 they said look you can't do anything you’re an opposition MP.

SIMON Are you going to amend your approach though?

R HIDE Oh yes, it's a huge step up to be leader of the Act Party and we're filling a huge pair of shoes in Richard Prebble, and whoever wins has got a big job to do so of course there's going to be a step up to the leadership role.

SIMON Gentlemen, thank you very very much for your time this morning, I appreciate you coming on Agenda.

We will have more on Tariana Turia after this break and a chance for you to win on Agenda.


SIMON Welcome back, with us again our guest commentators, Deborah Hill Cone from the National Business Review and Jonathan Milne who writes for the Sunday Star Times, and also joining us in the studio today we have Maori Affairs commentator, Willie Jackson, welcome.

Right we're gonna talk about the Act leadership. Deborah who stood out to you as having the necessary leadership qualities?

DEBORAH None of them actually, the key thing here is that we've been waiting for a long time for Act to decide exactly what it stands for, is it economically liberal and socially conservative or is it economically liberal and socially liberal which is basically the liberal, they call themselves the liberal party but they can't decide what they are, in fact they sort of still come across as a bunch of misfits who’ve all got their own little obsessions and they still can't decide exactly a coherent platform for what they're offering you know to stand apart from National, and even when they get up there and they all say their pieces I would say Rodney's going to be shoe in, but just because I think people realise there isn't any other choice, but they still haven't actually solved that deep rift in the party, and until they do that I think they're stuffed.

SIMON Quite strange politics from my perspective I thought the levels of politeness and courtesy were exceptional you know.

DEBORAH Creepy. But it's all unseemly, the whole thing's unseemly.

SIMON What did you say Jonathan, boring?

JONATHAN It was boring, I mean let's be honest, we were waiting for Stephen Franks and Ken Shirley to step up and show us that they actually have something that’s interesting, something that’s you know going to – that they can sell to the voters you know, a bit of excitement, they didn’t produce the good, I mean old Rodney I don’t know if he's trying to be sort of serious or statesmanlike or something but frankly he wasn’t very interesting either, you know I hope the viewers have some strong coffee because I mean no offence but the MPs weren't about to wake them up.,

SIMON Yes, yes, parliamentary politics. Willie imagine if you will and I'm asking you to go to a very very strange place in your imagination, you were an Act voter. Who would have gained your support?

WILLIE I sort of support what's been said, the reality is Hide is probably going to be the saving grace for Act, everyone knows that he's a media hound and he's gonna be out there but he puts his foot in his mouth sometimes as do some of us, but he's always there, he's in the media, he's in every day and it looks like he's the person who could save them, never mind this debate today, you know they're all being nice to each other, conservative, and they’ll go back and then backstab each other no doubt, but it sounds like Franks is the one – Stephen's the one who's being promoted by the inner sanctum in the party but if they’ve got any brains they’ll chuck Rodney out because he's their only hope of getting their 5% by the sound of things, but in the end who cares really eh we're all lefties aren’t we Simon?

SIMON I thought that was a sort of rhetorical question isn't it Willie.

DEBORAH Just one final point if I can make it just that you forget that really a party that’s looking for 5% only needs one issue that connects with the public and if they can find that one issue, I don’t know what it is but maybe welfare I dunno, but you know if they can find that they might have a chance.

SIMON We're gonna move on now because of course the big political story over the last 24 hours has been the announced resignation of Cabinet Minister Tariana Turia. Willie you've been following this story closely are we gonna see a new Maori party as there ever been a more golden opportunity.

WILLIE We are going to see a new Maori party.

SIMON The Dominion Post has reported you as holding a hui to discuss one.

WILLIE I held a hui about a month or two back that discussed it and I facilitated that hui, oh there's a strong call from Maoridom with regards to a new Maori new independent Maori party, it's when that takes – you know it's when that comes about is the real question. People are talking about next Wednesday I think that would be a bit soon, I think that they have to concentrate over the next few weeks in terms of developing that party getting the policies right, they're gonna have a lot of time and a lot of space because Labour for some unknown reason is not putting up a candidate and I would have imagined they're not doing that because they can't find one, because I'm sure if they had have found one someone like Haui Tamati they would have been in like a shot, because their main game would have been to try to moot Tariana but it sounds like they know they’ve got no chance so they’ve made a clear decision not to run a candidate.

SIMON Is that the way you see it Jonathan or is it more of a case that there are too many risks inherent in running here and why not just leave it.

JONATHAN Yeah well if they thought they could win, if they seriously thought they could win they would be running, they don’t think they can win, but I think it's really quite a slap in the face to their Maori vote, they are showing – I mean they’ve held these seats apart from a brief period when New Zealand First had them, for most of the past 50, 60 years and they're now saying we're not even gonna bother running a candidate, and if I was Mahara Okaroa down south if I was Mita Ririnui up in the Bay of Plenty even if it Parakura Haramia, I'd be a little bit worried about my position, because I think that’s sending a bad message from Labour to the Maori vote.

SIMON Okay well the big question then is the political climate conducive at the moment will we see a new Maori party, well on the telephone at the moment we have a man who will know about these sort of circumstances, Derek Fox you’re with us today?

DEREK FOX Yes good morning.

SIMON Good morning Derek.

DEREK FOX Yeah well there's no doubt in my mind that there will be a Maori party, I mean the whole reason that I ran when I ran was to attempt to – to you know act as catalyst for that and there will be a Maori party I think that the issues, I think Maori have got an issue in front of them now which shows just how much they can really expect from a mainstream or any of the mainstream parties, particularly the one that they have put a lot of faith in over the years that when push comes to shove and when your position on the Treasury benches is being threatened you'll sacrifice anyone and everyone.

SIMON So we will see a new political party, almost inevitably?

DEREK Oh there'll be one, I mean what we have at the moment is we have a whole lot of people who are active and who are mobilised and that’s not an issue, the issue is being able to mobilise effectively to get the sorts of candidates that Maori will be able to vote for. It's easy to vote for them in a climate like this you know and I don’t blame Labour for not putting someone up or any of the parties for putting someone up against Tariana because she's gonna be a shoe in, there's no doubt about that, but you know in the cold hard light of day in 12 months time or in three years time you need to have candidates that people can see they have a proven track record of working for Maori that they're in a position to stand up and work the moment they get into the parliament and they're able to activate effectively on behalf of Maori, so there will be a Maori party and it's a matter of really ensuring that we get a well organised well resourced and effective party.

SIMON Thank you Mr Fox, also on the phone at the moment I believe we have Tariana Turia herself, Ms Turia what are we going to see in the upcoming weeks?

TARIANA TURIA Well what we're going to be seeing of course I believe is a Maori political movement from that. I can see that a Maori party will come from that, it'll be an opportunity to develop some very strong infrastructure for the Maori party, we want effective policy that meets our needs, we need to be looking at how we will be able to work constructively with whoever is in parliament in the interests of our people and all New Zealanders and I think that it's a very exciting time for our people to at long last being able to sit across the table with alongside of other politicians rather than always being in a subservient role in a mainstream party.

SIMON Thank you Ms Turia, just briefly who will be the key players in this new party alongside you?

TARIANA Well I don’t know whether you know that it's appropriate right now to be disclosing those things to you Simon, we're still meeting and talking and I guess that probably in two weeks time we will be able to be more clear about who will be actively involved.

SIMON Thank you very much for your time this morning Ms Turia. Jonathan you were scribbling furiously during the course of the telephone conversations, what would you like to say?

JONATHAN Well I think the former Minister now has certainly laid her cards on the table, I mean there was a lot of use of the word we there with regard to a Maori party, but I think – I think really the big question is I mean we've got Willie out there talking a lot about a Maori party talking a lot, and

WILLIE Not enough today though Jonathan, in fact we should have had two sessions on this.

SIMON Is it every enough for you Willie?

JONATHAN And we've had John Tamahere talking about it as well, then backing away of course. Definitely urbanside, then we've got people like Pita Sharples who kind of can cross the divide a little bit between urban and iwi and we've got Tariana who's clearly iwi, I don’t know how they're gonna work it together and it's been suggested to me that only the urbans actually have the infrastructure you know the trust's already out there in the community to do it, but I don’t know if they can work in with the iwi and produce a cohesive party.

SIMON It's a big question on its own.

DEBORAH There's gotta be a reason why Maori parties in the past have failed, but also I just wonder how much the victimhood thing round Tariana at the moment is potently bringing everyone together.

WILLIE Look the Maori party will work it will embrace all sections of Maoridom that’s how it has to happen, urban and iwi it almost has to duplicate the Labour Party, if it duplicates the Labour Party it'll do well, Tamahere says it all the time the Labour Party's a combination of homosexuals, homophobics, you name it radicals, conservatives, a Maori party has to be that to be successful. It can't be just part of the tinorangatiratanga movement but we've gotta take our time, think it out and Tariana Turia has to be the leader.

SIMON And she's the key to the whole thing?

WILLIE Absolutely.

SIMON Thank you all very very much to Jonathan Milne from Sunday Star Times, Deborah Hill Cone from the National Business Review and Willie Jackson, political commentator and hui organiser.

Thank you for joining us that’s it for this week, before we go we want you to be a part of this show and to encourage you we'd like you to tell us in 50 words or less who would make the best leader for Act and why. Go to our website, and make sure you register and then email us with your entry. Now the three best will get a copy of the book by Kiwi advertising guru Kevin Roberts, Love Marks the Future Beyond Brands. There you go Love Marks on your screen, Kevin Roberts, CEO world wide Saatchi and Saatchi, not just his name but also his job description.

Well last week we asked you what you thought of this show and you were very kind, you told us a show like this was long overdue that it was great to see extended interviews with politicians and that it was encouraging to see TV providing more in depth current affairs. Thank you for all and so last week's prize the New Zealand Dictionary of Quotations goes to three people on the bottom of your screen now – Stephanie Rowe, Robin White, and Kay Tate.

We will be back next week with more from the world's of politics and the media, thanks for joining us, we'll see you then.

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